THE "SMASH" REPORT: Episode 11, Or, Starcatchers

By Kenneth Jones
17 Apr 2012

Jack Davenport and Katharine McPhee in Derek's fantasy.
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

Some highlights of (and comments about) Episode 11:

IVY CLINGS: Ivy is back in the Bombshell rehearsal room at the urging of Derek. Sure, she had a pill-induced collapse on a Broadway stage two episodes ago, but with Rebecca being a question mark, they need a powerful singer in the room — particularly for those "shadow selves" in "Let Me Be Your Star." (Tom and Julia are rightly frustrated about beefing up those characters — it's not a show about what's around Marilyn, it's about Marilyn). To boot, Derek thinks Ivy is a better standby for the lead ("the Cartright girl is not up to it"). The creatives don't love the idea of Ivy in the room, but they go along with it. And Ivy is eager for another chance at the lead. Karen is still technically the understudy in this unnamed creative process, but, Ivy says, "When Rebecca Duvall goes down, everything's up for grabs."

SAY IT WITH MUSIC: Derek has another fantasy moment when he talks to Karen — "the Cartright girl" — in the rehearsal room. "I won't be needing you anymore…as Marilyn," he says in a slightly confusing exchange. Golden light floods the room and he envisions her as Marilyn (in a pale purple dress) and she seductively sings Bob Hilliard and Mort Garson's 1960s pop song "Our Day Will Come," which was covered by Amy Winehouse in 2002. This kind of musical psychotic break speaks to Derek's repressed feelings (artistic and sexual) for good girl Karen (even the dress is modestly cut, compared to what Ivy is seen in). It also feeds, "Glee"-style, a public appetite for pop that's reinvented in a dramatic context. Is the network pushing for these pop songs? The full flowering of "Our Day Will Come," with production values and piped-in backup boys, suggests that we may never again see characters singing in karaoke bars. Gilded pop may be here to stay in "Smash." Wishing for even more original songs by Shaiman and Wittman (or more show music from our greatest classic theatre writers) may be futile. Who other than you and me wants to hear kids in an hotel room sing "I Love Louisa" around a piano during an out-of-town tryout?

Christian Borle and Leslie Odom Jr.
photo by Will Hart/NBC

GO SLOW, JOHNNY: Julia makes a dinner reservation for Tom and chorus dancer Sam (Leslie Odom, Jr. of Broadway's Leap of Faith), who have been flirting (but mostly flirting like straight dudes flirt when they want a fine bromance). They opt instead to go back to Tom's place where their foreplay includes revealing to each other…their favorite Stephen Sondheim musical. Sam likes Into the Woods, Tom likes The Frogs — which is not even Sondheim's favorite Sondheim show! Based on the ancient Aristophanes comedy, the musical was first produced in a swimming pool at Yale in the 1970s. Read in the Playbill Vault about how Nathan Lane and Susan Stroman (and composer-lyricist Sondheim) reinvented the show at Lincoln Center Theater in 2004. Sam pulls away when Tom makes an aggressive pass (as if The Frogs reference wasn't already a turn-off). We learn that Tom's longest relationship lasted five months (and Tom is close to 40). "My way is better," Sam says, with disarming simplicity from Odom. "I'm kind of old-fashioned…I go to church and believe in God and stuff. So I kind of think of this as holy. I like you. I want to slow things down." Wide-eyed Tom is intrigued and perplexed. A little too much God, perhaps? (Not for Middle America!) This week's sports team reference: The Knicks! (By the way, this episode of "Smash" aired on the day that Borle received rave reviews for his boisterous performance as Black Stache, a pirate in the Broadway play Peter and the Starcatcher, which opened April 15 and offers an origin-story of Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Borle's encounter with the lid of a trunk is one of the comic high points of the fantasy-comedy, and will likely help earn the actor his second Tony nomination in early May). Read about Borle's work on Broadway (and meet the Starcatcher creators in a video) in the Playbill Vault

BITS AND PIECES: Julia and estranged husband Frank (Brian D'Arcy James) meet to discuss their son's failing grades. Frank continues to be wildly unevolved in the way he expresses himself about the Julia's infidelity. No wonder she slept with a vivacious actor! … Karen's boyfriend, Dev (Raza Jaffrey) has kept secret the fact that he was passed over for a promotion at the mayor's press office. He stands up Karen at a special screening of "Casual Friday 2," where she bonds with Ivy, who suggests that maybe Dev is with someone else (and she's right — Dev's having a drink with a sexy reporter friend, played by Tala Ashe). … Sneaky assistant Ellis (Jaime Cepero) thinks that Rebecca's manager Randall (Sean Dugan) is a "loser," and accidentally reveals it to the unsuspecting guy (they slept together last week). … Rebecca's troubled bad-boy boyfriend, Colin, who acts up every four months or so, bursts into rehearsal, disrupting things. He's easily pushed out by Derek (and with the threat of mace from Eileen). Why do we think he'll be back? ... Eileen finally reads the earlier report that Ellis compiled about her new flame Nick (Thorsten Kaye), and finds out he's a "crook." He explains that when you own a bar in New York, you associate with shady characters. She tells him that she's vulnerable. They shrug. They kiss. They're hooked. Just in case, though, we know she's packing mace.

(Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.)

Check out the earlier "Smash" Report recap of Episode 10.

View Playbill Video's earlier visit with cast and creatives of "Smash."